Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

Banned blog and back again

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Ah. The power of social media.

Google image Screenshot capture of school dinners.

Martha Payne’s very popular blog, Never Seconds where she posts about her daily school dinners – with photos – was banned. A popular blog – with over 2 million readers – her work shot to further popularity – 3 million readers – after the press caught the story.

This is the BBC’s take. And The Guardian.

Apparently catering staff feared for their jobs because of ┬áMartha’s regular updates about the meals. The ban has since been lifted … but it is certainly food for though (LOL) that a caterer automaticaly gets upset about publicity. What did they have to be ashamed about? Here is Martha’s report of the ban.

Lovely to see this little girl taking the power of the media so seriously and equally wonderful that she just concentrated on doing the job well. What a sweetheart.

Anyhow we all love U-turns, and in a popular trend, apparently someone at the top listened, and changed their mind. Hurrah. And it turns out that this all helped Martha’s original cause – raising money for a school kitchen in Malawi!!

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June 19th, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Live singers and ipod stuff

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From Heptinstall down the steep steps and path to Hebden. Lovely crisp and bright November weather.

We went to Hebden Bridge last week to see a band I love and also half a band that I love. The first was ChumbaWumba and the second was Becky Unthank from The Unthanks. I remembered all over again why I love country and folk music which does not carry with it all the paraphernalia of celebrity and useless stardom baggage. It is all about the music. All the bands were superb. In fact it was a Folk Festival so we also saw Grace Notes and a young band called Maia.

It is quite a while since I went to see a live band and it made me think about a few things. I do love listening to music on my iPod – either playing through speakers or headphones. But there is something important that digital sound cannot do for you. It is seeing the artists and understanding the physical and emotional WORK that artists do to produce their music that makes the live experience so fantastic. Especially when you see musicians who are really into it all because they have written, arranged or researched the music they are playing. I love the way they look to each other, that they produce music that reacts to the other band members that there is a kind of conversation going on within the band and aslo with the audience. I always feel that when you see a musician who is working so hard to produce the music, that you are being allowed to witness something intimate. Sometimes they even look like they are in pain; there is extreme concentration that you see; sheer physical hard work; enjoyment and a sense of fun – a full range of emotional STUFF. For me this very personal aspect of live music is so important and you cannot get it from your iPod alone.

So this is a post which remembers the value of things that digital reproduction cannot do for us and that it has its limitations.

Written by DrJoolz

November 26th, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Posted in everyday life

Facework, Hair work, Cut & Paste

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I am looking forward to having my haircut next week … by one of the hairdressers involved in my research project. It will be quite interesting and different – having your haircut is an intimate thing. You have your hair and head rubbed, and combed and pruned, and crimped and it is all very PROXIMAL. I don’t think I have read any articles before which involve having your haircut by one of the research participants.

So that’s cool.

I am thinking about a number of things in the project …. about the way in which the young women immerse themselves not just in a lot of work where they groom themselves in particular ways to fit a very definite hetero-normative style; they also do the same for other women in a serving type capacity. There are lots of photos in their Facebooks which show them posing in ways that have a postural intertextuality – imitative of styles like Beyonce poses; Kylie stuff even; Britney Spears I can see in the styling. But also they have photos of themselves in prom dresses and sitting in stretch limos. These are all images that can be indexed in global ways. Yet there is also something very LOCAL in the photos … the homey ones show them in English pubs; with very English looking boys who have rottweilers on leads; who are in pubs and clubs that have a very local feel. There seems to be a continuum in their lives that they move across and through and this is all displayed in Facebooks in ways that do not acknowledge the different worlds they operate in.

Often their chat online os very girlish; they talk about their Mums and Dads and they present as daughters, as hairdressers and also as sexual beings. They also adopt language that is quite male at times – positioning women in often sexualised and even brutal ways.

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November 11th, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Facework on Facebook … at Oxford

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I am looking forward to going to Oxford today to give a seminar and to meeting people from the Education Department – and this will be my first time as a visitor to the University.

Thanks to sisyphus007

The presentation is based on a paper I gave at Manchester and have re-written for Computers and Education. .

Slides available on slideshare and draft paper on scrib’d.

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November 9th, 2011 at 10:47 am

Gender, gadgets and Identity

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Wife as servant

Silly wife

This image was sent to my husband in one of those emails that has about 25 jpg attachments. All were ads from the 1960s and 1970s collated presumably because they all seem funny now. Each ad seems now being used to laugh at ‘the way we were’. Old ads depicting a different era, helping us to feel sophisticated and clever and think ‘ How naive we were’. And “so glad we are not like that now’. It’s all a bit smug really.

One way of reading this particular ad is the feminist way: the man is the wage earner and he has kindly bought his grateful wife a Kenwood Chef. She worships him; she is so happy. We the latter day feminists feel she is foolish; a dupe who is unknowingly her husband’s slave. We, in the present tense, are apparently superior.

Nowadays though, media representations of women and technology are more of this variety:

Here the technology is sexy and liberating. The dancing figure is clearly female, loving her life and feeling in control. She has leisure time and she has the cash to buy her own sleek, hold-in-the-hand mobile technology. She is able to dance. She is iPod woman. She is certainly not thinking about cooking (or eating). She only knows dance and fun.

I agree the ‘iPod girl’ seems to be a liberated woman. Not to put too fine a point on it though – she is sexy and a fat woman galumphing about woud not sell the product. All is not as liberated as we pretend. The detail of the graphics are like the gadget itself – cool, cool, super-cool and minimalist – pared down as a dramatic but sparse line drawing (in fact animation) against a dramatic coloured background. The background by the way, is the same as the colours available for the ipods … coming in pink, azure, lime green and whatnot. It is woman aligned with product – or even – woman as product . The marketing campaign did a great job. , (I really like the spoofs by the way). And these are not really about liberation but getting your cash one way or the other.

The Kenwood Chef is now seeing a revival and the whole cooking thing has been re-configured. We have all these TV programmes celebrating the frilly apron style of cooking again. It seems that the zeitgeist stuff of make do and mend; of home baking; of home grown; of ditsy cooky cutesy fashion, is also making a breakthrough and we need no longer feel ashamed of our cooking impulses.

Thank goodness because I wanted one and got one this last week. Yes dear readers. My husband bought it for me and I have been making bread, cakes, soups and even mashing potatoes in it. Because I love technology no matter what. And so we turn back again – is this a fresh look at feminism. I suspect not; I think it is a clever marketing move on the back of the recession, which pretends that if you make it yourself, you are doing it cheaper. But the love affair with technology lives on.

Just do this stuff with your eyes open. It is all consumerism. Whatever.

Written by DrJoolz

November 7th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Posted in everyday life,Identity

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Hot off the treadmill

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Most mornings you will find me jogging along happily on a treadmill at the University sports centre. I love it. The scene: rows of treadmills, bikes, cross-trainers and rowing machines arranged in lines facing six tv screens. I will be on one item (starting with a warm up on the bike and then the mad behaviour on the treadmill); I will be wired into my ipod, wearing a heart rate monitor and staring at the tv screens, but probably thinking about work. I watch all the screens, reading across them all rather than getting involved in just one. The whole thing is quite surreal and scuppers the notion that technology breeds couch potatoes. But that is another blog post entirely.

(pic from here Thanks.)

On Monday morning (my day off) several things got me thinking – first of all that the latest Beyonce video seems to be pornographic and also seems to celebrate male violence against women; I find it embarrassing to be in a place where there is porn (in my opinion) being screened.

Secondly it is so weird how many people who are on Facebook say that they hate it. The Jeremy Kyle show, as usual had anti-social people yelling at each other about their dysfunctional relationships. One young woman at some point started describing how her estranged boyfriend had been ‘mouthing off’ about her on Facebook. She also told how she had ‘slagged him off’ on there and that she had ‘dissed’ him and lied about him and boasted about having a great number of sexual partners. She dumped him publicly on Facebook. At the end of all this she said ‘I hate Facebook. It’s crap. Only bad things come of it.’ It is interesting how people criticise the medium as opposed to their own behaviour.

Then on another channel at the same time this was all ‘kicking off’ on Jeremy Kyle, there was a tv advertisement for something called ‘Cell Phone Spy’. Yes seriously. You can use it to spy on what people are texting. I thought this would be illegal but apparently not. This is advertised on MTV. I found it online, but the site looks dodgy so you may prefer not click on the link – and I am not sure how long the link will be live anyway.

In my google search though, a huge list of results linking to sites advertising similar products showed how you could spy on ‘cheating spouses’, or become a ‘mobile spy.’ To me it seems the software is moving faster than legislation can keep up. Very sinister indeed. Maybe I am starting to realise why some people are so nervous of new technologies.

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September 30th, 2011 at 9:52 pm

“Unexpected item in the bagging area”

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Oh I so hate it when supermarket staff try and make you check out your own shopping at the supermarket. This is one area of technology I cannot STAND. If you have a bag of golden plums to weigh, they will not have a picture of them to press and the ‘lady’ has to come and help you. If you buy pre-packed stuff, the bar code won’t scan properly. If you pick up something reduced it freaks out. But the worst thing is when you put something in the bag, it starts screaming that ‘there is an unexpected item in the bagging area’ and no matter what you do it keeps freaking. What does it expect anyway? I won’t even begin to tell you what happens if you don’t want to use their cruddy carrier bags but use your own environmentally friendly (and more stylish) bag.

I think I prefer old fashioned shops where you get served; where you don’t have the moral dilemma of all the buy one get one free offers (and the pain of throwing half of it away too); and in general where you don’t have to buy vast quantities. I also like to have a chat with the shopkeepers and they rarely want to say much when they are sitting at the till with a massive queue of people to deal with.

Just one more thing

I wonder though, what technology would improve the shopping experience in supermarkets. Any ideas?

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September 21st, 2011 at 8:22 pm

memes and old folk

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Yesterday my daughter sent me a link to a video on YouTube. I thought it was brilliant and decided to send it to my husband the next day. But he beat me to it and sent me the link this morning. And so did a colleague. It was this:

It really made me laugh and is of course up my street as it showed how people learn to use new technologies – even older people who feel nervous – by just twiddling about with stuff and experimenting. (Actually the guy in this does a bit too much twiddling imo). I remember I accidentally filmed myself when I got a video camera about 12 years ago … it was recording and I did not realise. Can be quite comedic. But anyhow putting this kind of thing on YouTube etc gives us rare insights into how people learn at home . there is a lot of this stuff online – but not always as funny as this (remember the one when the guy slings the Wii controller into the telly?)

But I do also love how these things go viral so quickly – and this couple is very sweet. I think they warmed the hearts of people all over the world and that is a very new thing brought to us courtesy of web 2.0 technologies. Who said social networking was a bad thing? This couple is totally heart warming!

At the same time as Rosa sent me the link to this, she also sent me a link to a meme that really made e laugh. It began with this rather innocuous image here:

It has been spoofed by lots of people here and it has really made me laugh. This is what I think of as a true meme. I have more stuff on memes in this blog – type ‘meme’ in the search box on the right and see more examples.

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September 16th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

No time to be my son (& distributed identities)

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I was telling some friends of mine about the next stage for my Facebook research. One of them was immediately excited about this, saying how much she hates Facebok … ‘I think it’s terrible. Even when he is at home with us, he has to keep up appearances with is friends. They are forever commenting and LOLing. I just wish he could sometimes just relax, be a kid with us and not be forever on call. It’s like he has no time just to be my son.’
A very interesting insight I thought. It made me wonder. I suppose it means he is ‘enacting being a friend ‘ when he is in a context away from his friends. He is ‘doing’ an identity that belongs to another context. But to him, he feels he is with friends when he is on Facebook.

This is Clare after she had taken a photo of me. She emailed the shot to my husband. (Dobbing me in for bad behaviour). So sometimes in real life, you can’t get away from the fact that your behaviour is reflected out elsewhere. These days, we have distributed identities.

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September 8th, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Attempting Ethical Facebook Research

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I am planning the next step in my Facebook research – wanting to look at how female trainee hairdressers ‘do friendship’ through Facebook.

At the hairdressers

One of my all time favourite studies is Jen Coates’ book ‘Women Friends‘. It is a study of language – and how women enact friendship through the language they use with each other. I want to do a similar study but within Facebook – and look also at other ways my research participants enact friendship, e.g. through Facebook updates that include words, images, games and so on. This research will combine my academic interest (you could say passions) in several areas – language, gender and new technologies.

It will also be fun working with hairdressing students and I think that ways in which they negotiate and present their emerging identities as hairdressers will come through the work. I can’t wait. Nothing better than having a good old chit chat with young women. For me to access the girls’ /women’s Facebooks, they will need to let me ‘friend them’ (and I will reciprocate).

I have submitted my ethical review and the first reviewer has already come back to me asking how I will deal with the ethics of other people, additional to my research participants, who will be visible to me online when I am looking at my participants’ pages. I have answered I will be involving groups of friends and will follow their interactions with each other and will not cite or get involved with others. However this is a complicated area – and I am not sure how feasible this will be. I may have to end up asking for additional consent if it becomes to hard to disentangle some of the data.

What it will also mean of course, (and my reviewers have not noticed this) is that my participants will also be able to see all my updates and any contributions that my friends put on my wall. So I guess if and when the research starts I will need to alert my Facebook friends.

I really hope I will get some students wanting to be involved in the project as I think it will be so fun. Oh yes. And a fantastic contribution to research.

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September 2nd, 2011 at 8:36 pm